U.S. News & World Report produces several influential annual ‘best of’ lists in all kinds of categories. In education they rank colleges, graduate schools, and, of course, high schools.
In recent years, charter schools have been dominating the U.S. News high school rankings. Reform propaganda outlets, like The74, gleefully touted the success of charter schools in the U.S. News & World Report rankings in columns like this and this.
Two years ago I wrote about how the KIPP New York City high school was ranked as the 4th best high school in New York State and then I uncovered that they actually cheated on this by assigning their students to four different schools, one of which became a top performing school. Based on my research, KIPP was eventually disqualified off the list.
While KIPP’s cheating scheme was truly dishonest, other charter schools gamed the ranking system another way. Before this year, the ranking was based primarily on the percent of seniors to pass an AP exam. So if you were a charter school with high attrition and had 25 seniors in your graduating class, despite the fact that you had 150 ninth graders three years earlier, if all 25 of those seniors passed at least one AP test, you could be one of top rated schools in the country.
But this year — finally — U.S. News & World Report closed this loophole for their 2019 results.
Now the rankings are based on (from U.S. News website):
30% College Readiness, which is the percent of 12th graders taking and passing an AP test. This is still game-able, but since it is no longer 100%, gaming the system this way can only get you so far.
20% Math and Reading Proficiency
20% Math and Reading Performance. This is kind of a value-added where they compare the test scores to a predictive model.
10% Underserved Student Performance
10% College Curriculum Breadth
10% Graduation Rate. This one is the killer for schools with high attrition rates.
Though this system still has some loopholes, it is a big improvement over what they have been doing before that.
As a result, most of the charter schools that had done so well previously are no longer being touted by The74 who posted an article about the change in a very matter of fact way.
U.S. News still has a long way to go and probably are doing more harm than good anyway, but at least they improved the metric to deter cheating and we won’t have to read as many articles about how U.S. News is proving that charters are superior to public schools.